Accepted Paper:

Driving the hectic City. Everyday mobility of Asian migrants in Johannesburg  

Author:

Matthias Gruber (Goethe-University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the ways of everyday mobility and how driving and co-driving can become a lesson in deducing the fabric of social and cultural interactions in a changing African cityscape.

Paper long abstract:

"Johannesburg is hectic, bru. Even the hobos in the streets are hectic". This is what Samir answered, when I asked why he moved to the platteland. Samir, dressed in a qamis and wearing a beard like all devoted Muslims, was readily identifiable as Jo'burger. The whole conversation took place in his supermarket in a rural town. He was one of John's customers, a reserved Korean, who worked as freelancing trade agent, distributing artificial hair supplied by a Chinese importer based

Samir's characterization of Johannesburg en passant summarized a vivid scholarly debate, which goes on among urbanists, human-geographers, people from the arts, urban planners, and anthropologist for quite same time. Attempts to "read" Johannesburg seem almost to fail due to its "edginess" (Loren Kruger), "elusiveness" and "fluidity" (Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttal). Indeed, Johannesburg is hectic when John, like many others drive from their homes in the suburban sprawl to inner-city warehouses, to the visible imprints of the Chinese presence, China Malls and the "new" Chinatown in Cyrildene. Based on fieldwork with migrant traders in the sphere of Chinese Johannesburg, the paper explores the ways of everyday mobility. In order to understand "How to read Africa's changing global connections in the African cityscape", driving and co-driving became lessons in deducing the fabric of social and cultural interactions.

Panel P114
CRG Africa in the World: Global Village, African City. How to read Africa's changing global connections in the African cityscape